In the last decade, Roosevelt High School has undergone a series of changes to improve academic performance; the latest was the creation of seven small schools.
But students, faculty and parents must prepare once again for another adjustment.
Recently, faculty and staff were informed that they would need to develop a plan to reorganize the seven schools created in 2010 under the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), who took over operation of the school two years prior.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy called for the need of a “more cost-effective and functional” plan in a letter written to PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck, and gave a deadline of Feb. 22.
Deasy addresses the lack of academic progress at Roosevelt and states the school must meet or exceed specific annual performance targets. If the school fails to meet to those targets by the end of next school year, writes Deasy, the Partnership’s role at the site will be reconsidered.
According to PLAS Sr. Director of School Transformation Sofia Freire, last October the Board of Education gave Deasy authority to provide every PLAS site individual terms.
“We knew that whatever he was going to ask us to do was going to be drastic,” said Freire.
Roosevelt was the first Partnership school to be given its terms and the only one asked to reorganize, according to PLAS.
Since the announcement, members of the Shared Decision Making Council at Roosevelt made up of UTLA chapter chairs, principals, a student body representative and PLAS directors, have been meeting weekly to generate ideas on the core principals that will help establish a new structure.
At a recent meeting, teachers and a handful of alumni and students expressed frustration during a tense public comment period, saying the rollercoaster of changes they’ve endured has had been unfair to them all.
“Students are confused,” said student body president Rafael Huipe. “There’s definitely some discontent and a lot of questioning.”
Gillian Russom, history teacher at the Academy of Environmental Science and Policy (ESP), said she was horrified to hear the plan had to be completed in 7 weeks. “It was a real shock to us, we did not expect this kind of dramatic news.”
Russom was especially disturbed after learning that ESP, which is housed off-site at the East L.A. Skills Center, may return to the main campus.
“If a program is working for students, for parents”¦.. if you have a collaborative team of teachers that is making really amazing things happen, why destroy that?”
Eighteen-year veteran teacher Francisco Ceja says although he likes working in small learning communities, assigning each one its own school code created several problems.
“I don’t think that it was a necessary move,” said Ceja. “Our Roosevelt campus was not built for having a number of schools.”
Now that enrollment at the school has decreased due to the opening of nearby schools and charters, PLAS directors realize they created too many schools.
“We made a mistake,” the Partnership stated in a letter to faculty this month, where they explain future enrollment projections were not taken into account.
“”¦the small schools are currently not financially and programmatically sustainable and need to consolidate in order to remain viable.”
Small schools were created to host approximately 550 students each, however the student population at Roosevelt went from 5,000 in 2007 to 2,900 this year.
At ESP, the student population has not exceeded 340 in the last five years. But community representative Xochitl Renteria says the size, location and teacher-student personalization at the small school is what has helped her two kids succeed.
“ESP has that same [family] environment that I provide at home,” said Renteria. “Merging it back to Roosevelt will break the bond [kids] have built with their teachers.”
She along with other ESP parents, teachers and students have gathered efforts to show PLAS the value of their program, citing last year’s CST scores demonstrated the highest jumps in all the Roosevelt schools. They demand that whatever the new restructuring plan, ESP is kept as is.
Currently the SDMC is considering seven options, including having one to five schools alongside the Magnet, and the option to have ESP remain off site or return to the main campus.
Supt. Deasy is expected to make a final decision on the reorganization plan by March 9. If approved, the plan will take effect the next school year.
SMDC Meetings are open to Roosevelt stakeholders and include a public comment period. If you would like to attend, call (323) 780-6500